Monday, July 29, 2013

Beware of the Distracted Minivan Mom

The garbage collectors are conspiring against me. 

Every Thursday night, Tyler rolls the trashcans out to the curb and parks them to the right of the driveway.  And every Friday morning, the garbage men empty the trashcans, and toss them haphazardly behind my minivan.  And then I swear they then pull around the corner to watch, because every Friday morning, I run over the trashcans.

With my van.

Every. Darn. Time.

Obviously, I don’t have a fancy car with those cool rearview camera features.  I drive a crap mobile van that my children have made their mission to stink up and destroy, and I have made my mission to drive into the ground.  I can’t even call it a Honda “Odyssey” anymore, because the little metal sign identifying it as such fell off a couple of years ago.  I think my van is embarrassed.

It’s not that I’m not paying attention, though.  If anything, I’m hyper-aware of any potential small children behind my reversing van, which is why I pull out super slow.  And probably why I run over the trashcans super slow.

Every. Darn. Time.

Stupid blind spot.

Let’s face it – I’m just not on the lookout for large, plastic trash receptacles when I’m driving my crap mobile van.  I used to be a good driver, but then I had four children.  Now I’m the distracted minivan mom weaving down the road whom the rest of you are trying to pass.

No, I don’t text and drive.  I rarely even talk on the phone and drive.  But what I do do is chunk fast food and Happy Meal toys at my children while hurtling down the highway at 65 mph.  Why?  BECAUSE THEY ARE HUNGRY AND THEY WILL DIE IF THEY DON’T EAT RIGHT NOW!!

Or I am going 33 mph on a 40 mph road because I’m busy hollering at the kids.  Usually because the girl pinched the boy who was looking at the other girl cross-eyed and the third girl started yelling and then all of the girls announced THEY WISH THEY DIDN’T HAVE A BABY BROTHER!!

Or I don’t hit the gas pedal the exact second the light turns green because I am trying to adjust the volume on the radio to just the right point so that it’s basically too loud for the tender-ears in the back, but too soft for the deaf kids in the front.  That way, EVERYONE IS UNHAPPY!!

So yes, I am the driver that the rest of you hate – and occasionally make rude gestures towards.

Fortunately, and by the grace of God, I have not had an accident.  Outside of the neighborhood.  Inside the neighborhood is a different story, though.  Of course, there are those darn trashcans. And… the mailboxes. 

Now, I’ve only hit three mailboxes.  And really, I only count two, since I hit my own twice.  The first time, I was pulling into the driveway at a weird angle because I was simultaneously distracted by the kids and trying to AVOID THE TRASHCANS.  And since I didn’t do enough damage to the crap mobile van that first time, I went back for a second round.  An estimated $1,500 second round.  (Look, the side door still opens.  It even closes sometimes.  I am NOT forking over $1,500.)

The other mailbox was totally not my fault.  Anyone will tell you that it sticks way out in the road.  Granted, I may have taken the curve a little fast because I was late getting the children to school, but that’s beside the point.  I hit the mailbox and knocked my right-side mirror clean off.  And because that wasn’t enough, I ran over it with my back right tire.  Yeah, that one we had to fix.

So trashcans.  Mailboxes.  Oh, and that concrete support-thingy in the parking garage.  But that time it was Tyler distracting me, not the kids.  He kept yelling (“Watch out!” I later discovered) and I turned to look at him.  Luckily, the mechanic hammered that dent out as a freebie.  After my third oil change, he told me he was tired of looking at it.

If only my garbage collectors were as kind as my mechanic.  Of course, collecting trash is kind of monotonous.  I’m probably their only source of weekly entertainment.  It’s kind of like I’m provided them a service.  I wonder if I can get any sort of discount for that?  I could really use the money for car repairs.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


There is no such thing as volume control in my house.  My children produce sound at two levels: ear-splitting and earth shattering, and there are NO mute buttons.  You want silence around here?  Check things out between 3:10-3:24 a.m.  (But no guarantees.)

The thing is, noise level isn’t necessarily a crisis indicator.  That’s just the way my kids communicate.

Need a snack?


See some furry critter in the backyard?


Sibling walks within twelve feet of your personal space?


And my personal favorite:


It doesn’t take a keen observer to realize that all the shouting is a product of genetics.  Just listen to their father.  You’ll usually hear variations of a few different themes, including “TURN OFF THE LIGHTS IN THE [KITCHEN, BATHROOM, BEDROOM, GARAGE]!!!”, “CLOSE THE [FRONT, BACK, GARAGE, CAR] DOOR!!!”, and “STOP HITTING YOUR [SISTER, BROTHER, FRIEND]!!!”  And my personal favorite:


The best is when Tyler and the children come together in one, ear-drum rupturing cacophony of noise.  Around here, we call it “Wrestling with Dad.”  Are they having fun? Is he killing them?  It’s hard to tell when he’s got four screaming children pinned to the floor in a combination of Krav Maga / jujitsu moves he learned from watching Saturday night UFC fights.  But since the kids always come back for more, I figure the screams are all happy ones.

Personally, I’ve learned to deal with the noise by slowly going deafer with each pregnancy.  No, really.  At first, I assumed that I inherited my progressive hearing loss from my father, a retired airline captain.  But it turns out he can’t hear anything thanks to decades of being around loud jets.  I just had four children. 

I like to think of it as God’ protection over me.  And them.

In the midst of my own noise complaints, I recently discovered that while I think my children are exceptionally loud, they think I’m pretty loud, too.  Perhaps it’s because I can’t hear my own voice anymore.  Or perhaps I made one or two genetic contributions of my own.  But it turns out that they can be equally as intolerant of my noise as I am of theirs.

Last night, in the midst of bedtime chaos, I decided to try and move a piece of furniture around downstairs.  After it crashed to floor, Ella shouted at me from her bedroom, “MOM, TRY TO BE QUIET!!  YOU SCARED THE SHEEP OUT OF ME!!!”

Wait.  What??

Fortunately, my unreliable ears were not playing tricks on me.  She really did say “sheep.” 

I still have yet to determine where exactly she heard the phrase that she so obviously misinterpreted.  I'm just glad she didn't hear it correctly.  Maybe all the noise around here can work in my favor.  Once in awhile.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hope PETA isn't Reading This

Mother Nature shudders at the sound of their voice.

I suspected this when Santa delivered our 2 sweet, orange kittens on Christmas morning a few years ago.  After a few months in the hands of my children, our one kitten, Matty, grew into the skittish cat who sleeps under my bed and darts for the safety of my closet whenever she hears their voices getting close.  Her brother Newton, on the other hand, parks himself up high enough to take a swipe at the face of any child who comes within 3 feet of his chosen perch - whether they see him there or not.  Which is why he's currently sporting a set of purple plastic claw covers and an ad for a new home on Craigslist.

Any takers??

Of course, Mother Nature's cause for terror was confirmed during our vacation at the beach this past week, where my children discovered their talent for making money.  Or in this case, collecting sand dollars.  The two seemed sort of interchangeable to them, because once they found the first one, they were well on their way to collecting 100.  You'd've thought they worked for the IRS the way they hunted down every last dollar.

I was surprised at how eager my sweet Emily was to sign off on these sea creatures' demise, though.  If I am to have one, this is for sure the child who will be a vegetarian.  She cries when the chicken trucks drive by our house on their way to the Tyson plant, and asks me over and over, "Those are the mean  chickens, right?"  She doesn't believe that the meat in her fish sticks comes from the "real fish that live in the ocean."  Odds are, it doesn't, but I also didn't have the heart to tell my Little Mermaid fan that I ate flounder for dinner the other night.  That conversation would NOT have gone well at all.  But she seemed unconcerned when I explained that the sand dollars were living creatures and that by taking them home, we would be killing them. 

"That's okay, Mommy.  I don't mind."

I finally talked the kids into selecting 3 each to keep, and we returned the rest of the sand dollars to their low-tide home.  Along with the starfish they'd been molesting for about an hour, who surprisingly managed to keep all his limbs.  By then, they had moved on to one of the little hermit crabs they'd found.

"Can we keep him, Mommy?  PLEASE???"

Yes, I was weak-willed.  But I had every intention of rescuing that hermit crab later that day, so I filled a cup with some sand and sea water, and Jerry was dropped dumped carefully placed in his new home.

I have no idea what hermit crabs eat, and to be honest, I kind of forgot about Jerry until a few days later when we were packing up to leave and the kids asked me what we were going to do with him.  Peering through the plastic cup, I assumed the poor little guy was just one more victim of my children's love, but then I saw him pop out and skitter around the periphery of his tiny tank.

Son of a gun, he made it.

I felt like I needed to reward Jerry's fortitude, so while the rest of the family took off for home, my sister Julie and I headed to the beach with the hermit crab in tow.  I honestly can't explain it, but we really felt like we owed it to Jerry to give him a second chance at life.  As I stood with him at the ocean's edge, I could almost hear the sound of nature sighing with relief that my children were headed home.  I hummed a little bit of Born Free and then bent to release Jerry back into the ocean.  I'm pretty sure I heard him cheer "Yippeee!!", but it was just before a giant wave crashed over him, turned him upsiade down, and washed him out to sea, so I can't say for sure.

Poor little guy.  Maybe my kids aren't the only ones Nature wishes to avoid. 

Gosh, I hope he made it...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Good Intentions Won't Pay the (Therapy) Bills

My sister (the brilliant photographer I feature on this blog and the only person on earth who can capture a decent shot of my obnoxious children) is pregnant with her first child.  So far, she hasn't come seeking any motherly advice from her big sister, probably because she doesn't want to hear what I have to say:


You can't screw your kid up if she's in utero for the next 18 years.

It's too late for me, though.  Which explains why my four little blessings are such a mess.  I feel like it's on my daily "To-Do" list: Make sure the kids have plenty to discuss in future therapy sessions.


I not trying to make such a muck of motherhood.  Really, I have the best intentions.

I recorded Soul Surfer a few weeks ago, thinking I would finally see the movie my mom keeps hounding me to watch.  Ella, of course, found it while scrolling through our DVR list and immediately started begging me to let her watch it.

Ella.  The girl who doesn't like "Grandma's Beach" because it had a jellyfish.  Once.

So a film depicting the aftermath of a shark attack on a young girl DID NOT seem like a good idea for my young girl, who is going back to Grandma's Beach in 3 weeks.  So I held firm and said no, until she wore me down last Saturday and I said yes.

I did all of my due diligence for the movie first, reading reviews and skimming through various web sites to see if there was anything I needed to prepare Ella to see.  I guided her through the film's location ("FAR away from Grandma's beach") and prepared her for what she was going to see ("A shark is going to bite off Bethany's arm, but then everything ends up happy").  Finally, we sat down to watch the movie.  Ella got a little scared at one point, but then she ran upstairs to put on her bathing suit and rash guard. 

Which she hasn't taken off since.

She also found a small paddle board in our pool bucket and practiced "surfing" on our family room carpet.

I got pretty relaxed about the whole thing once I saw how Ella responded to the movie.  Or perhaps I should say "lax," since Emily, Evie and Ty wanted to get in on the Soul Surfer action and I didn't stay on my game.

This weekend, while I thought the kids were watching the innocent antics of Tom and Jerry, Ella was actually showing everyone "the movie about the girl who gets her arm bit off and doesn't grow another one."  Which confused the twins, because they just assumed it would.  Grow back, that is.  Once they got past the initial shock, though, they were okay, and I took the opportunity to explain how God can take the bad things that happen to us and use it for good.

Clearly, my message took, because last night I walked in on the girls in the bathtub playing "Shark Attack."  They were all taking turns, with one girl playing the part of the shark and the other two sticking their arms behind their backs, screaming "My arm is gone!  You bit it off!!" 

Ty's got it all figured out, too, because at the store today he tucked his arms in his shirt and announced, "My arms got bit off!"  Then he whipped them back out and threw them in the air.  "Oh, there they are!"

Oh, God.  Well, I just hope He can use all those future therapy bills for good.

And that my sister doesn't give birth before 2030.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Grieving Good Friday's Child

It's ironic, I know, that the woman who gave birth to those 4 little munchkins on the right (in UNDER 4 years, mind you) used to struggle with infertility.  But there was a time, nearly a decade ago now, when I thought I might never be a mom.  For two years, I endured every marital embarrassment and every invasive medical test my doctors could throw at the problem, but with no clear results.

Unexplained infertility.

Then in February of 2003, I had a glimmer of hope - a brief, positive pregnancy that ended on the day I discovered it.  Valentine's Day.  Tyler and I were out of town with friends, and trying to keep our baby-making ordeal under wraps.  I swallowed a handful of Motrin and grieved quietly in the condo bathroom.

The following month, we were out with friends celebrating my birthday.  On the way home from dinner, I told Tyler I thought I was pregnant again.  We stopped by a drugstore to pick up a pregnancy test, which I took the minute we got home.  But I was too chicken to look at the results.

I waited on the couch, pleading with God for a positive test, while Tyler went to check the stick.  He was taking forever, so finally I yelled at him, "What does it say!?"

"Um, I don't know!"

"What do you mean you don't know!?!"

I ran into the bathroom and looked over his shoulder.  And realized that I didn't know either.  There were two lines, but one looked so faint, it was hard to tell.  We jumped in the car, sans shoes, and drove back to the drugstore with test in hand.

"What do you think this means?" I asked the pharmacist.

He wasn't sure either.  He broke open another test box and re-read the instructions.  "Well, I think it means you're pregnant.  But here, why don't you take a few more."

I bought a handful of pregnancy tests, all different brands, and took them home to try.  One more test that night and another two thing in the morning confirmed that I was, indeed pregnant.  Tyler and I were beside ourselves with excitement, and I spent the rest of the day floating around in a happy fog.

Until I saw the blood.

The doctor checked and assured me that I was still pregnant and that a little spotting was normal.  After some calculations, she set my due date at December 21.  I was ecstatic.  The best Christmas present ever.

A few days later, we drove to Stone Mountain to surprise Tyler's parents with the news.  Shock, hugs, laughter, and tears.  It was everything the "big announcement" is supposed to be.  We spent the rest of the evening together dreaming of our future child and grandchild.

The next day was Good Friday.  Our entire family was coming to the house for Easter.  It was my first time hosting a holiday, and I had an extensive grocery list to knock out that afternoon.  I decided to drive the extra distance to the "good" grocery store, and along the way I found myself talking to my stomach and the baby inside.  I can't remember for the life of me what I said, and I know I should've felt like an idiot.  But all I remember was how happy I felt driving to the store on a gorgeous spring day, blathering on to the little life I was carrying.

Thirty minutes later, I was standing in the produce department when my phone rang.  It was my doctor, calling to tell me that my pregnancy wasn't going to be a viable one.  My progesterone levels were dismal and, knowing that we were going into a holiday weekend, she didn't want me to be alarmed and alone when the bleeding started.

Instead I was alarmed and alone in the middle of the produce department. 

I staggered though the check-out line, holding it together until the groceries were loaded and I was safely tucked back into my car.  And then I lost it.  I don't remember the drive home; only stumbling through the door and into Tyler's arms, sobbing and overwhelmed by grief.

Later, we drove to my parent's church for a Good Friday service.  Tyler had called them earlier to tell them I was pregnant.  Or not.  It wasn't much of an announcement, although both Mom and Dad felt I needed to hold on to some hope.  But my brand-new mother's intuition knew it wasn't to be.  I stood in worship that evening, understanding in a way I never had before the grief that the Father must of felt when He surrendered His Son to death.  By the end of the evening, I had surrendered my child as well.  The miscarriage came and ended quickly, over by Saturday morning.

I decided to name the baby Abigail.  I also named my Valentine's baby: Samuel.  I think some of the people around me thought I was crazy.  I'd hardly been pregnant with either of these children.  Sure, it was okay to be sad about not being pregnant anymore, but to identify the loss as children?  I'm not sure anyone really understood.

Which was unfathomable to me.  In my circle of friends, most oppose abortion.  They believe that life begins at conception.  Why then, were they surprised when I grieved for my babies, and for the promise of life that I'd lost?

We went on to lose a third child, Isaac, who I clung to for nine agonizing weeks, although the doctor gave me little hope of success.  His loss was the most devastating, and the most physically painful, though again, I don't know that many understood the depth of my grief.  Had I been further along, had I been able to hold child in my arms before surrendering him to heaven, I think it would've made sense to people. 

I read a statement the other day on Facebook.  Something about how if scientists were to discover one living cell on a distant planet, they would proclaim to have found life elsewhere in the universe.  But one living cell in the uterus of a woman?  It's a blob.  A mass of disposable cells.

I'm not sure we can have it both ways.  I'm not making an argument for or against abortion, here.  This isn't about political or social issues.  It's about grief.  My grief.  Personally, I believe that life begins at conception. 

Today is Good Friday, the day I always remember my little Abigail.  But Good Friday doesn't mark the end.  Sunday is coming.

I believe that I will see my babies again in heaven someday, that I will recognize and rejoice with them.

Because praise the Lord, Sunday is coming.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worry, Thy Name is Woman

My apologies to the Bard for a clumsy attempt at wit, but don't you feel like it's true?  I know men worry, but it seems they do it on a more broad spectrum scale: job, money, who will win the Super Bowl this Sunday.  But women - and it seems especially mommies - have the capacity to worry about everything.  In infinite detail.  Given 10 seconds alone to think, the worry center of a woman's brain kicks into high gear.

Did I lay the baby on her back?  Is it too cold in her room?  I don't want her to get sick.  Maybe I should lay a blanket over her.  But what if she pulls the blanket over her face?  What if it smothers her?  Maybe I should skip the blanket.  But she didn't cry when I laid her down.  Maybe she's already sick.  Maybe she was too weak to cry.  She felt a tad warm earlier today.  Does she have a fever?  What if it's the measles?  I knew I should've vaccinated her on schedule! 

Before you know it, mom's laying in the crib next to the baby and trying to test-breathe through a blanket while waiting for the doctor's answering service to return her panicked call.

Maybe that's why God rarely gives mothers 10 seconds alone to think.  I know if I find the time I worry.  In fact, I'm kind of worried that I worry more than normal people. 

Yes, I see the irony.

I'll be fine for awhile; life is trucking along at it's usual breakneck pace, giving me plenty to blog about but not much time to write.  And then I get side-swiped by a fear I didn't see coming and my anxiety skyrockets.  I can't sleep.  I can't focus.  My kids, my husband, and my responsibilities slip to the wayside.  I forget to eat.  Sometimes it lasts a few hours, sometimes a few days.  But in the end, I'm always ashamed of the way I let that fear take control of me, especially when my worry was so often for naught.

The question that always comes back to me is, "Do I trust God?"  And the answer is an emphatic YES.  I don't have enough time or room here to detail God's faithfulness to me throughout my life, but after 30 years as his child, I know for certain that my God is a trustworthy God.

So why the fear?  If I trust God, why do I allow my anxiety to control me when circumstances appear to be out of my control?  (And why do I continue operating under the delusion that I have any control?)

Two things occurred to me recently:

1)  God made me.  He wired me to be exactly this way.  I don't think He's looking at me in confusion wondering "That's odd.  Why is she so worried?"  He knows all about my morbid imagination, my capacity for assuming the worst, and He's not shocked by it.  The truth is, I think if I stepped out of His way He'd be able to leverage my feelings for His glory - that He'd remove my worry and replace it with insight.

2)  He loves me.  And He has given me His Word to remind me of that love, but I have to be willing to read it.  I confess that I read less when life is going well.  But when I'm facing anxious times?  Oh, the Scriptures I find!

Matthew 6:31-34
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

So I'm not going to waste any more time wondering if I worry too much.  I probably do, but worrying about that isn't adding any value to my life.  Instead, I choose to accept my worry as a natural part of who I am.  And then I choose take it before the throne of the God who made me, and trust Him to take care of my every need.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hair (Apparent)

Kids are like apples. They don't fall far from the tree.

Unless the tree is planted at the top of a hill, in which case the apples will roll.

Unfortunately, my kids aren't rolling anywhere. I'm rooted in land as flat as Kansas, which explains why we're all able to provide such regular, blog-worthy material. I've actually been producing blog fodder for years. I just didn't bother to write about it until my children started emulating it. But truth be told, they come by their exploits honestly - and I have the collection of stories to prove it.

One of them came to mind last week when I saw my brunette neighbor gathering her mail. My brunette neighbor whom I've only ever known as a blond.

"It looks great!" I told her.

"Thanks. This is round three, though. I don't know what I was thinking."

I knew what she was thinking. She was thinking, I'm bored and broke, but this box of Clairol could be fun!

I totally get that. In fact, it was my college motto. My hair has hit just about every color in the rainbow, including an unfortunate run-in with orange. But my worst hair-dye-gone-wrong story isn't about my hair. It's about Callie's.

Callie was my beautiful, blue-eyed college roommate. And her crowning glory was her waist-length, virgin blond hair. Virgin, as in never dyed. And of course, as her hair-dying, maniac friend, I felt it my duty to add just a touch more blond what to what was already perfect hair.

I finally convinced her to let me work my magic over Spring Break of our senior year. We were staying at my parents' house, on our way to Florida for the week. After a quick Target run, I was all set to go: 2 bottles of blond for her and a bottle of chocolate brown for me.

Can you see where this is heading?

After applying one entire bottle of what I now realize was suspiciously dark-looking goo, I started in on the second bottle. Which looked a whole lot lighter than the first.

"Um... I think you need to get in the shower. NOW."

"Really? Already?" she asked. "I thought we were supposed to let it sit for 10 minutes."

"Uh, yeah. You know, just start washing. I have to make a phone call."

The phone call was to the Loreal customer service number listed on the back of the box. While Callie was busily shampooing, I hastily explained the situation to a guy named Ted: Chocolate brown dye applied to light blond hair.

"Well, s---," Ted replied.

"Really!?!  That's the best you can give me!?!" I screeched.

"What's going on?" called Callie.

"Nothing! Just keep washing!!"

In my panic, I bolted down the hallway in search another box with another customer service number on the back. One that wouldn't pass me off to an uncooperative man named Ted. Unfortunately, I didn't notice the drop of chocolate brown hair dye on the bottom of my sock until I'd tracked brown spots up and down the hallway of my parents' newly carpeted house.

Callie came around the corner as I was stripping off my socks and trying not to throw up.

"This looks awfully dark. Is it supposed to lighten as it dries?"

It cost $180 to have Callie's hair dyed back to its original color. (Although Callie swore it looked a touch lighter, and "isn't that what we were going for?") Since then, I've left all of my hair-dying to the professionals. Sure my hair might have some purple highlights once in awhile, but I pay someone to do it on purpose these days.

But my boxed-dye days might not be completely behind me. Ella told me today that she'd like to try painting her hair.

"I think it could be fun, Mommy."

Poor little apple. That kid ain't rolling nowhere.